Brigadier General William R. Yancey was born at Parkin, Ark., in 1914. He moved to Fayetteville, Ark., in 1926, finishing high school there and graduating from the University of Arkansas in 1937.
He was appointed a flying cadet in July 1937, completing his training at Kelly Field, Texas, in June 1938. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force Reserve in June 1938 and assigned to active duty with the 90th Attack Squadron, Barksdale Field, La. He received a regular commission in the Air Force in August 1939.
In the years before World War II, General Yancey served with the 90th Attack Squadron at Barksdale Field, La., and commanded a fighter squadron being activated at MacDill Field, Fla. He was with the 50th Fighter Group at Meridian Miss., on Pearl Harbor Day. He went with them as group operations officer to Orlando, Fla., in the spring of 1942. During the rest of that year he remained with this group, which became the demonstration unit for the Air Force Tactical School.
The general assumed command of Kissimmee Air Force Base, Fla., and the 349th Night Fighter Squadron in the spring of 1943. This was a squadron of the first night fighter unit to be established, and it was through Kissimmee that all night fighter units were trained for overseas combat. In 1944 he moved with the 349th Night Fighter Squadron to Hammer Field, Calif., when the Night Fighter Training Program was transferred to the Fourth Air Force. While at Hammer Field he was director of operations and chief of Night Flight Training. In late 1944 General Yancey was assigned to China, arriving at Kumming, Headquarters 14th Air Force, in early 1945. After a short tour in the A-3 Section of the 14th Air Force, he assumed command of the 3rd Fighter Group in North China, where he remained until the end of war.
After the war General Yancey and a small number of his 3rd Fighter Group staff officers remained with the Chinese air force as U.S. Air Force advisers. He served in this capacity throughout 1946 and part of 1947. His last assignment in China was advisor to the Northern Area, Chinese air force in Peiping, China.
Upon his return to the United States in late 1947, General Yancey was assigned as director of operations, 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. When this unit moved and reopened at Topeka Air Force Base, Kan., he assumed command of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, an assignment he held until shortly before the base closed and the unit de-activated in 1949.
General Yancey was assigned to Headquarters Second Air Force for a brief tour and then to Strategic Air Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., as chief, Reconnaissance Division, Directorate of Operations, a job which he performed until mid-summer 1952.
In 1952 he was assigned to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., as a student in the Air War College. Upon graduation, General Yancey was assigned to the Advanced Study Group, Evaluation Division of the Air War College. After a two-year tour, the general was selected to command the 4070th Support Wing (SAC), at March Air Force Base, Calf. He remained at March Air Force Base until he assumed the position as deputy commander of SAC's 7th Air Division in England in January 1957.
On completing his tour in England in December 1958, the general was assigned as commander of the 96th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. He moved up to command the 819th Air Division at Dyess in March 1959. He continued in this capacity until his move to Castle Air Force Base, Calif., in July 1961 as commander, 47th Air Division.
Very much interested in all sports. During the seasons he closely follows the successes of his favorite football, basketball and baseball teams. He plays golf consistently in the low 70's and carries a very respectable bowling average. Whenever he can find time, he enjoys hunting and fishing. General Yancey is a shrewd card player. Especially likes gin rummy and bridge.
General Yancey is much in demand as speaker for civic affairs and accepts every invitation that his schedule will permit. He usually has a ready story for any occasion. He can remember jokes, tell them well, and at the appropriate time. He seems to enjoy people.
DECORATIONS AND MEDALS
Legion of Merit
American Campaign Medal
American Defense Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
National Defense Service Medal
China Air Force Mao Chi Medal
Special Breast of Yun Hui Medal
OPINIONS, TASTES AND EVALUATIONS
Basically a non-smoker, he has been known to light a cigar after an enjoyable dinner. His tastes in food and clothing are easily satisfied. He likes to eat almost anything, but never has to worry about gaining too much weight. Prefers sport clothes but has definite tastes. Leans to light brown or gold colors but wants his socks to match, even on the golf course.
General Yancey enjoys antique shopping and can critically appraise values. During early married life he made much of the household furniture himself. He is a good "fixer".
The general's taste in music includes both classic and modern, although he attends the opera under duress. He enjoys real art, but admits he doesn't understand it all. Likes to travel and learn about new places, especially enjoys planning trips.
He prefers warmer climates because of his liking for outdoor activities, but he is quite at home in colder climates too. Also a fine skier. He has never cultivated a taste for swimming and the beach partially because he burns easily and partially because he has too much nervous energy to sit or lie calmly on the beach.
The greatest talent that General Yancey possesses is his ability to get other people to work for him. He quickly gains and holds the complete loyalty, respect and affection of all those who work for him or with him. The teachings by the father, a Methodist Minister, were well instilled in the son who believes in the golden rule and practices it. No one has ever seen him lose his temper or "blow his top," even under the most trying circumstances. He remains calmly collected and can come up with the right word to smooth out a difficult situation and put others at ease. Even when he reproves a subordinate he leaves the guilty one with a feeling of kindliness toward him and a fierce desire to rush out and prove that it won't happen again. He doesn't appreciate being misled or given erroneous information and insists that he be given the facts and that those facts be the correct ones. No one could ever fear swift reprisals from him if they tell him the truth. If circumstances will permit, he will allow a subordinate to correct and make amends for a mistake - just as long as he knows the individual is trying. That doesn't mean he will tolerate for long any haphazard results - but then he rarely has to. He inspires so much respect that good efforts come naturally from those who work for him. He is as much loved by his airmen as by his officers and they all know he is with them as long as they do their job.